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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ireland, an article I wrote in 1998
Ireland is a land of rainbows. That was my thought as I headed for the plane that would return Schelly and I to the Unites States after twelve days in the land of our distant ancestors. This was our first trip to Europe, something we promised ourselves for when we turned 40 and in time for our thirteenth anniversary.
Dublin was our landing place and we took a great circle tour of the country, Sligo, Conomarra, Cork, Cob, Waterford, Wexford and more places than I can readily count. I kissed the Blarney Stone at the famous castle. Incidentally you are lying backward head down, with an Irishman of dubious sobriety holding your legs, over a 160-foot drop from the castle tower, over some bars of dubious strength when you kiss the famous stone. It's supposed to give you the gift of persuasion, if you kiss it. For the faint of heart, I am told it suffices to kiss someone who smooched the rock. Sounds like a scam to me. There is rumors that the Irish relieve themselves on the stone when there are no tourists around. This was vehemently denied by the Blarney staff. The castle is a wonderful treasure house and worth seeing for itself.
We stood on the hill of Tara (no, the House in Gone with the Wind is named for it, not vice versa) and looked for twenty miles in any direction, just as Irish Kings had for almost 6,000 years in that high place north of Dublin. The wind blew fiercely over the ancient mounds and the Stone of Destiny, which sings when a true King of Ireland puts a hand to it. Sorry, no luck for either of us. It is also the place where St. Patrick lit the Pascal fire that proclaimed the founding of the Catholic Church in Ireland, A fire the Druids warned would burn forever, if not put out that night. Catholic Church 1, Druids 0.
We rode horseback on the raised dirt walls of a fairy fort over 3500 years old. Farie forts are circular mound forts raised by the Celts in ancient times. Now overgrown with trees, they are regarded by the Irish as inviolable. A farmer will leave a farie fort in a good crop field, rather than risk the wrath of the Sidhe (pronounced Shee) the ancient elvish spirits of Ireland. Our guide assured us we were safe in daylight as the Sidhe feared horses but he recommended against coming back after dark.
Interestingly I found out that my wife, who is of royal descent was related to Richard de Clare (alias Strongbow) the Englishman (actually Norman) who came over at the invitation of the Irish King MacMurrah to help fight the Irish King O'Rourke in 1160. He basically overran the place and kept it till Henry II came over from England to demand his fealty. He's buried in Christ Church Dublin where we visited the old boy, famous for sacking Wexford and burning Dublin. We didn't mention the relation to the locals. Of my ancestors, who were Scots, but if one goes back far enough are Irish from Sligo, little is known. Notorious as muggers, footpads and ne'er-do-wells, the McKeowns left few records (mostly in prison), their famous insignia (two drunks stealing a horse) is still remembered in Sligo.
The people were pleasant and friendly, though no more so Charlotteans, I thought and it is truly a drinking culture. Guinness is everywhere, Guinness is everything. They live in pubs. They give directions by pubs because the #!!#$#! road signs are so lousy. Driving on the opposite side is not so bad, even if you are doing it in a Nissan Microbe ( a car they don't sell in the US cause you wouldn't be able to find it in your parking lot till everyone else left). The Roundabouts are great, giving you another shot if you miss your turn.
The Irish drive as if Satan is chasing them but for all that in two weeks I never saw one accident or the remnants of one. In the first two weeks back here, where Satan isn't chasing people, he's actually steering, I saw 20+ and lost track of the close calls. "Hey buddy put the damn cell phone down and steer!!!"
The Ring of Kerry (ring means peninsula) has some of the most spectacular views in Ireland or anywhere, lighthouses, Martello forts from the Napoleonic Wars, abandoned towns still left alone from the famine (the Hunger as the Irish call it, there was no famine, there was food it simply wasn't distributed). History runs close to the Irish skin. We Americans, who do not remember the Korean War, are the opposite ends from the Irish who talk about the flight of the Wild Geese as it happened to their parents.
The Ring of Hook contains a lighthouse and Tintern Abbey built by Schelly's other ancestor William Marshall (regent of England after King John- he married Strongbow's daughter Isabelle). How a woman could have such lineage and not have hung onto a single scrap of land or even a few peasants we could flog...
And over it all in my memory are gentle showers, greens you cannot believe, and stiff winds followed by rainbows.
If you get the chance, go.
Ed
The painting "Wild Ireland" was one of a series of Irish Works done by Schelly Keefer

Ireland, an article I wrote in 1998

Ireland is a land of rainbows. That was my thought as I headed for the plane that would return Schelly and I to the Unites States after twelve days in the land of our distant ancestors. This was our first trip to Europe, something we promised ourselves for when we turned 40 and in time for our thirteenth anniversary.
Dublin was our landing place and we took a great circle tour of the country, Sligo, Conomarra, Cork, Cob, Waterford, Wexford and more places than I can readily count. I kissed the Blarney Stone at the famous castle. Incidentally you are lying backward head down, with an Irishman of dubious sobriety holding your legs, over a 160-foot drop from the castle tower, over some bars of dubious strength when you kiss the famous stone. It's supposed to give you the gift of persuasion, if you kiss it. For the faint of heart, I am told it suffices to kiss someone who smooched the rock. Sounds like a scam to me. There is rumors that the Irish relieve themselves on the stone when there are no tourists around. This was vehemently denied by the Blarney staff. The castle is a wonderful treasure house and worth seeing for itself.
We stood on the hill of Tara (no, the House in Gone with the Wind is named for it, not vice versa) and looked for twenty miles in any direction, just as Irish Kings had for almost 6,000 years in that high place north of Dublin. The wind blew fiercely over the ancient mounds and the Stone of Destiny, which sings when a true King of Ireland puts a hand to it. Sorry, no luck for either of us. It is also the place where St. Patrick lit the Pascal fire that proclaimed the founding of the Catholic Church in Ireland, A fire the Druids warned would burn forever, if not put out that night. Catholic Church 1, Druids 0.
We rode horseback on the raised dirt walls of a fairy fort over 3500 years old. Farie forts are circular mound forts raised by the Celts in ancient times. Now overgrown with trees, they are regarded by the Irish as inviolable. A farmer will leave a farie fort in a good crop field, rather than risk the wrath of the Sidhe (pronounced Shee) the ancient elvish spirits of Ireland. Our guide assured us we were safe in daylight as the Sidhe feared horses but he recommended against coming back after dark.
Interestingly I found out that my wife, who is of royal descent was related to Richard de Clare (alias Strongbow) the Englishman (actually Norman) who came over at the invitation of the Irish King MacMurrah to help fight the Irish King O'Rourke in 1160. He basically overran the place and kept it till Henry II came over from England to demand his fealty. He's buried in Christ Church Dublin where we visited the old boy, famous for sacking Wexford and burning Dublin. We didn't mention the relation to the locals. Of my ancestors, who were Scots, but if one goes back far enough are Irish from Sligo, little is known. Notorious as muggers, footpads and ne'er-do-wells, the McKeowns left few records (mostly in prison), their famous insignia (two drunks stealing a horse) is still remembered in Sligo.
The people were pleasant and friendly, though no more so Charlotteans, I thought and it is truly a drinking culture. Guinness is everywhere, Guinness is everything. They live in pubs. They give directions by pubs because the #!!#$#! road signs are so lousy. Driving on the opposite side is not so bad, even if you are doing it in a Nissan Microbe ( a car they don't sell in the US cause you wouldn't be able to find it in your parking lot till everyone else left). The Roundabouts are great, giving you another shot if you miss your turn.
The Irish drive as if Satan is chasing them but for all that in two weeks I never saw one accident or the remnants of one. In the first two weeks back here, where Satan isn't chasing people, he's actually steering, I saw 20+ and lost track of the close calls. "Hey buddy put the damn cell phone down and steer!!!"
The Ring of Kerry (ring means peninsula) has some of the most spectacular views in Ireland or anywhere, lighthouses, Martello forts from the Napoleonic Wars, abandoned towns still left alone from the famine (the Hunger as the Irish call it, there was no famine, there was food it simply wasn't distributed). History runs close to the Irish skin. We Americans, who do not remember the Korean War, are the opposite ends from the Irish who talk about the flight of the Wild Geese as it happened to their parents.
The Ring of Hook contains a lighthouse and Tintern Abbey built by Schelly's other ancestor William Marshall (regent of England after King John- he married Strongbow's daughter Isabelle). How a woman could have such lineage and not have hung onto a single scrap of land or even a few peasants we could flog...
And over it all in my memory are gentle showers, greens you cannot believe, and stiff winds followed by rainbows.
If you get the chance, go.
Ed
The painting "Wild Ireland" was one of a series of Irish Works done by Schelly Keefer

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More from What do we do with Flores Man?


Homo Floresiensis or the last stand of Homo Erectus

The genus Homo is estimated to be about 2,000,000 years old. Homo sapiens is a relative newcomer (and includes the side branch of Homo neanderthalis that died out 30,000 years ago) and is thought to have existed for about 160,000 years. In terms of longevity, one of the most successful of the human family tree is Homo erectus. This ancestor walked out of Africa, where he arose about 1.6 million years ago. Homo erectus resembles contemporary humans in size though they had a stouter bone structure. Their braincase (850–1000 cc), is similar to ours, but the cranial bones are more massive than either their predecessor, Homo. habilis or modern humans.
Homo Erectus walked the world but did not conquer it. Their meanderings took them through Europe, into Asia and down the Java archipelago to a little island called Flores. It was there that Homo Erectus fought their last battle for survival and what a fight it was. They tried everything in their small armory of tools and intelligence, but it remained a losing battle. Evolution took a hand, in the way it always does, culling by natural selection. The smaller members of the species found it easier to thrive with their lower demands on their fragile ecology. Homo erectus tried to dodge extinction by becoming smaller and eventually by becoming Homo floresienis.
The original skeleton found in Liang Bua is called, LB1. It shows the extent of the adaptation, a female, she stood at just 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall, weighed about 25 kilograms (55 pounds), and was around 30 years old at the time of her death 18,000 years ago. Homo floreseinsis outlasted LB1 by another 6,000 years before their valiant fight for survival ended. We will have to last many rounds in the brutal ring of evolution before we can boast of such a record.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More from what do with Flores man


Hobbits Vs Dragons (287 words)
Professor Tolkien would have been proud of the hobbits of Flores, Homo floresiensis had all the pluck and guile that he attributed to Samwise Gamgee. Flores held not one, but many dragons, the Komodos. Some scientists think that Homo floresiensis not only faced those dragons, they ate them. A fate that Smaug is not known to have shared.
Homo floreseinsis had fire and, according to Professor Roberts of the Wollongong School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (Australia), a variety of stone tools: scrapers, axes, cutters and projectile points. He is believed to have used a throwing spear against the apex predator of his home, the Komodo dragon and the pygmy elephant, stegodon. It’s also believed that he had sufficient language skills to coordinate groups of hunters. While Homo floreseinsis’ brain was one-third the size of ours, it appears to be a case of size does not matter. The complicated frontal lobes allowed our ancestor to hold his own against monsters.
The Komodo dragon is a formidable opponent for modern armed human. They can reach eleven feet in length and weigh up to 300 lbs. Komodo salvia is a virulent toxin. Their teeth are similar to those of Tyrannosaurs Rex and it boasts formidable claws. For a four-foot tall, seventy pound, Homo floreseinsis male, armed with a spear, he would have been a daunting enemy. But there was a worse nightmare to be faced, the true king of Flores, Megalania prisca, a super-sized Komodo that reached lengths up to twenty-three feet. Mercifully, their reign of terror ended about 25,000 years ago. While Homo floresiensis shared the island with Megalania for thousands of years, it was only a campfire tale to frighten children during LB1’s lifetime.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mr President we have a situation/ First Contact in film and print /sidebar


First Contact in film and print
This has been handled wonderfully as in Ray Bradbury’s “It Came from Outer Space” and miserably as in an episode in the latest “Star Trek” when Captain Archer, informed that an alien ship was approaching, idly deferred the meeting of civilizations to a subordinate. After I finished howling abuse at the screen for the unpardonable sin of making first contact boring, I forswore any further involvement with the franchise. When we return to women in go-go boots armed with phasers, call me.
Carl Sagan and others testified that the technological achievement of crossing interstellar distance would be matched by a spiritual growth that would make conflict unlikely. He also believed there would be no practical military or economic way for war to be waged given the immense distances. While the vast reaches of interstellar space are immensely more challenging then the air or sea , it must be noted that we have fought in every medium we have ever encountered. Mankind is not simply a logical or economical creature, and indeed, wars among our species are far more often started for reasons of religion, race, and culture then through any cool, rational analysis of goods wagered and material and life lost. Hitler declared war on us not because he was obligated to do so (or felt any obligation to honor the Tripartite treaty) he was simply that contemptuous of American fighting ability and staying power. So while it will not be easy for first contact to occur, or for conflict to come from it, bad karma may find a way.

First Contact in SF usually means conflict, either by misadventure, or failure to communicate. In Larry Niven’s brilliant “Footfall” we are attacked because the aliens evolved from herd animals, and assume that on the meeting of two herds there will be a battle and the loser will then become part of the herd. Their surrendered soldiers assume that they are part of the human herd now and work for us. They simply cannot understand why we won’t become part of them. Biology has made their actions, nonsensical to us, imperative. With them it’s attack first, talk later and there are no recriminations because we are all one big happy herd now.
Niven has given us plausible aliens in a greater array and with more originality then any other writer (in my humble opinion), from Puppeteers, Slavers, Bandersnatch and Trinocs to Protectors. While First Contact was rarely the subject of his work, it was brilliantly handled when pacifistic humans met carnivorous aliens called the Kzinti, who evolved ( or in his later work are revealed to have been tampered with) from something like a felinoid hunting animal. Niven didn’t settle with making them big cats. He works out the psychology of creatures that see life as divided into predator and prey. A Kzinti will kill you for smiling at him; it would never occur to him to bare teeth in friendship. All his relationships are expressed in domination. Even more unusual, only the males of his species are sentient. It won’t occur to him to chat up Madeline Albright.
Niven and Pournelle create another alien culture in the “Mote in God’s Eye” where creatures are so at the mercy of their biology that it determines their history and fate in a never-ending cycle of boom and bust. What we do with machines, they do with evolution. Woe to us if they ever get out of their home system.

In a lesser effort, “Independence Day,” the aliens are xenophobic locusts and the attack is brought on because they are migratory, seeking resources, and other life forms are merely targets. It may be that they do not have a word for friend. Certainly the concept does not appear to exist outside their species. Hostility is immediate and without quarter. Similarly in the various versions of the HG Wells, “War of the Worlds” in book, audio and video and in the versions of Campbell’s, "Who goes there?” AKA the “Thing” first contact merely means attack. We are too different to have anything in common but to act as a food source for the hostiles. Andre Norton often depicted such aliens, positing that some creatures would have such radically different ways of thinking and being that to merely consider them would drive humans mad, as in “Inherit the Stars.”
Particularly upsetting is Ridley Scott’s, “Alien.” First contact with this creature consists of being raped then murdered as a food source for its young. It’s unclear if the aliens are sapient though they, in the adult stages, exhibit degrees of intelligence. I think they were someone’s bio-ordnance that got loose and I hope it ate their butt first.

CJ Cherryh, is one of the greatest sociological and anthropological creators of aliens. Her creatures THINK alien even if they usually look like us. There are the Iduve, for whom the words “help” and “hurt” mean essentially the same thing. They exist in a society somewhere between a wolf pack and feudal Japan. The Mri, absolutist aliens who are incapable of change and have thus remained culturally intact through uncounted ages. The Regul, ugly mercantile aliens who casually destroy and torment their young. The Atevi, who have no word for friend or love, only manichi, a complex web of obligation and social interactions that sometimes functions the same as love and friendship and sometimes leads humans into the dangerous gulf of alieness because it is neither of those emotions.
Cherryh deftly creates aliens who you can insult merely by existing or love, even while knowing that, while they will die for you (as in the case of Jago the Atevi bodyguard and Bren her human diplomat charge) they are incapable of loving you back.

Her catlike aliens are not as much fun as Larry Niven’s Kzinti, but her depiction of a feline society is interesting. She deals with an alien society beyond the warrior stage, begging the question: Are there alien accountants, insurance adjusters, used car salesman? “In the Pride of Chanur,” males battle for harems of hard-working, starship-running female traders. “Pride” has a double meaning in this title. First contact with humans sets the wheels in motion for one canny trader to remake her civilization when she decides she likes her male, doesn’t understand why he should die and she should become chattel to some younger stud.

In terms of the awesome effect of First Contact, CJ probably takes the prize. No one else so clearly conveys the sociological effect of first contact. One society or both will be drastically and permanently remade.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sidebar from Mr President we have a Problem So how do you plan for an alien invasion?


So how do you plan for an alien invasion? –1001 words

It starts with making certain assumptions. There is no point in preparing for an overwhelming attack by an invincible enemy. If it happens, we’ll wake up in heaven and maybe somebody will tell us what it was all about. Similarly we can’t engage anyone in deep or midspace and even in near (orbital) space. Our prospects for doing anything significant to an enemy are minimal. If they want to “nuke us from orbit, since it’s the only way to be sure,” then we are toast.
We have to hope that whoever is coming wants the planet in relatively good condition, infrastructure and environment intact. In short, they are going to have to come down, get out of the ships, and engage us directly. This will play to the only strengths we will have in such a situation. We know this planet and we were specially made to live and fight here. Beyond that, we will have the numbers.
Here’s where you can do some high-level conflict planning. Everything depends on the exchange ratios. You may divide these into high, medium and low. At the low level the alien’s technology is only marginally better than ours. They either lucked into stardrive or it’s the main area where the technology is better. This makes us competitive with them. Take an analogy that makes this simple. Swedish King Gustav Adolphus in 1631won the battle of Breitenfield (Thirty Years’ War) with a force of 40,000 men using the weapons of the day which included matchlock-firing musketeers and cannon. If his force of 40,000 encountered a modern American infantry battalion of 1000, what would the result be? In essence the weapons of the 16th century Swedes are the same as the weapons of the 101st Airborne, gas-operated projectile weapons of various calibers firing bits of accelerated metal. What differs is the efficiency. If the doughty Swedes pressed home their attack, expecting annihilation of their homes and even of the species should they fail, they will cause casualties. If the rate is less than forty to one at the end of the day, the Swedes win. While the modern battalion’s firepower gives casualties at fantastic rates undreamt of by Adolphus, that battalion takes them the same way as the Swedes do. Here’s where numbers matter. A dead Swede is 1/40,000 of Adolphus power. A dead modern trooper is 1/1000.
We see this in current warfare. The armies of the Third World crumble under the impact of New World or Old World modern armies. Iraq was the fourth largest Army in the world each time the US and its allies shredded it. But the Western armies suffer disproportionate disruption from casualties. Though the casualties are almost never militarily significant in themselves, they are demoralizing. Western troops are far from home and attrition by low tech ambushes is more of a danger than the enemy’s best troops. In addition, they are surrounded by unfriendly and uncooperative natives, who see them as aliens and will help the insurgent. Send 100 men down a road, they find nothing. Send five men, they don’t come back.
If it takes twenty-two “first line” fighter aircraft, or forty attack helicopters, to drop one Martian fighting machine, then the war-planner knows his needs. Submarines won’t do us any good, so don’t build them. Airfields will be too vulnerable to an enemy that holds the high ground of near orbit, so VTOL fighters will be more valuable. These calculations can be made now with the assumption of a low level of technological imparity.
One area that the planner will have to consider is quislings and “peace at any pricers.” The higher the toll for humanity, the more humans there will be, who for reasons of expediency, belief or practical desire to survive, will aid and abet the enemy. Some will hope to gain power and privilege in what they see as the inevitable alien victory. Some will worship aliens for religious and sociological reasons. Others will cooperate because the outside of the concentration camp looks better than the inside. Better to be the overseer than the field hand. Sometimes when we meet the enemy he will be us. Anticipate it and be ready to deal with effectively. You can guess what that means.
On a larger grand strategic scale if it takes us 100,000,000 human casualties to extinguish and alien invasion force of 1,000,000 that leaves only about 4,900,000,000 to carry on. We won’t like it and the planet won’t be much fun for a while but we will still hold title to it.
On a medium level, their technology is substantially better than ours and the practical effect is that our current military is useless. Then we are reduced to developing new technology; as in “Earth versus the Flying Saucers” with sonic disruptors, or chemical and biological effects or weapons such as did for H.G Wells’ Martians, or finally, there is always the wonderful option of nuking ourselves and them. It is hard to imagine that any level of technology or metallurgy will provide protections against a ten-megaton bomb. If deflector screens are a reality…well, ouch.
Then there is the high level. Frankly we just lose. The only way we can affect the aliens then is follow the tactics of insurgents. “Hang on their belt buckle,” be too close to them for their superior weapons to be used effectively. In this scenario we may have to decide between going out in a blaze of glory, where we all meet at Fiddler’s Green for a few brews at the Valhalla bar, or living on our knees in the hope that eventually something brings down our occupiers. Maybe we get their technology. Maybe as in John Christopher’s Tripod books, the other side gets old and sloppy. Perhaps out in the deeps of space our enemies have enemies who will be our friends. Or perhaps as in Brian Aldiss’ “Bow Down to Null” all we are capable of is inconsequential acts of defiance that keep our hope alive for another day.
I approached the Department of Defense to ask if there were such plans for possible alien incursions. I assume that there are at least theoretical plans in the Pentagon for conflict with every nation that exists. Perhaps that is an incorrect assumption but I would like to think that if the Belgians wake up cranky tomorrow, there is a plan to deal with that. I have not received a reply as yet. On the other hand there’s been this black suburban parked on my block all this week…;-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mr. President we have a First Contact Situation

“Poor prior planning yields piss-poor performance,” My Dad and probably a lot of other Dads as well-- EFM

“Mr. President,” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs begins, “we have a first contact situation. Unbelievable though it seems, sir, an alien spacecraft of unknown power and intentions has landed at 1200 hours in the centerfield of the Charlotte motor speedway in North Carolina. The craft, which is the size of aircraft carrier, has neither moved nor given any indication of its intentions since then.”
You are the 44th president of the United States. It doesn’t matter what party you came from but you have taken the reigns of power with the usual issues of deficits, unemployment, racial and immigration tensions and the war on terrorism. You had plans for all these things, some might even work. But you never believed you’d be asked to deal with such a situation. Your cabinet, the joint chiefs and your press secretary are watching you intently. They are scared. The roof has been blown off the world.
You turn to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a uniformed officer who greatly exceeded your own rank when you served as an infantry officer for operations in Grenada. This man has seen deadly combat for his country for decades.
“Do we have a plan for this, General?”
He looks you straight in the eye. “No, sir. If someone had suggested it yesterday, we’d have assigned him to the paper clip dept in Kenosha. We are going to have to make this one up as we go.”
“Crap.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Why in God’s name would they land there? Why come down without establishing communication beforehand?”
“Hard to say sir,” the CJCS says, “but it makes some sense. An unknown aircraft approaching DC or New York would be challenged probably attacked if it did not warn off. Charlotte has no such protocols yet it’s obviously a large city where there are substantial government assets. The speedway is a big open space able to take the ship. Even provides it some cover as it is out of direct fire, pardon me, direct line of sight, inside the arena. It’s open and yet contained.”
You ponder. What was most important thing you have to do, and what are the other objectives and in what order?
Answers come. One is the memory of an old movie starring Michael Rennie. A saucer lands in Washington; it’s surrounded by frightened people and National Guard reservists. One fool of a tanker pops the alien with a .45, almost ending the world. Other movies show sinister government conspiracies to capture and dissect aliens and steal their technology. As if they hadn’t possessed the ability to drop nuclear weapons of even accelerated asteroids through Earth’s atmosphere in retribution.
“At all costs,” you begin slowly, “we must avoid conflict with these aliens. They have traveled here from interplanetary if not interstellar distances; their technology is at least as far above ours as Columbus’ was over the Native Americans. Perhaps the disparity is even greater. Cultures are about to collide. One or both may be drastically changed. Conflict will likely be disastrous for us. The survival of the human species is, and must be, our first objective determining all else.
“We have to hope their intentions are peaceful, until proven otherwise. If they were hostile then a daylight landing in a civilian area would be an odd way to open hostilities.”
Your national science advisor, an eager and idealistic young woman says. “Sir, I don’t believe we have to deal with military issues here. A people so advanced as to travel interstellar space must surely have advanced sociologically as well.”
You stare at the well-meaning young woman and wonder is someone very like her was standing next to Montezuma when he met Cortez.
The general sitting next to her has his mouth drawn in a thin line. You can tell what he thinks of that idea but his natural inclinations must be watched too. He will see the situation as one of security and threat.
“The biggest danger right now,” you say, “is panic and hysteria. Religious fanatics in the Muslim world are denouncing these new arrivals as devils. Some of our own people are on TV prophesying the end of the world. Other hysterics are demanding immediate attack or immediate surrender. One nut apparently tried to attack the nuclear power plant north of Charlotte thinking it was making the alien’s mad. I don’t want some crazed individual taking a shot at, or God forbid, crashing a plane into that ship and starting an interstellar war.
“Mr. Chairman, I want Charlotte and the counties surrounding it put under martial law. No air traffic other then government authorized in North Carolina, South Carolina or Tennessee. A total exclusion zone for fifty miles around the Charlotte Speedway. I want US Airforce interceptors patrolling that area immediately. They will have the same shoot down authority as they have for White House Airspace. The aliens must be protected at all cost.
“I want three concentric rings of security around the site. Within one mile of the craft I want everyone out but Delta Force, CIA SEALS and Air Force Special Forces and a team of scientists and diplomats. More on that later.
“Beyond one mile I want the best troops you have. They will be setting up a military control zone. We will need civilian labs and scientists as well as the press and other communications.”
“I’ll get the 82nd airborne and the Marine expeditionary force, moving sir.” The CJCS says. “We’ve got all Federal troops in Charlotte moving into blocking positions already.” He glances over his shoulder and a Colonel moves crisply out of the room.
“In the overall Charlotte area we will move in FBI, Federal Marshals, State and local police as well as military police to handle civilian control issues and keep the city running and quiet. We need to settle the area so scientist and politicians can do their work. This is a political situation”
“And if they are hostile?” an admiral asks.
“Our efforts must be directed at avoiding conflict but,” you finish grimly, “if conflict is inevitable then we must have plans for that. I am summoning to the underground pentagon, representatives from the security counsel and the UN Secretary General. While I must remain in the White House to reassure the country, the Vice President will be leaving immediately to a secure location. We dare not risk a loss of command and control either by human actions, alien actions or simple mischance. Ms. Vice-President, please go now in Marine Two.”
The vice-president looks startled for a second then climbs to her feet, immediately surrounded by her staff and Secret Service. “Yes, sir,” she says. “God be with you, Mr. President.” All her usual charming informality is gone. History is breathing down everyone’s neck.
You turn to the Secretary of State. “John, I have work for you too. You will head a triumvirate charged with handling this one on scene. You will have the Chief Science advisor at your elbow and the Deputy of the Joint Chiefs. This is a political issue, John. I need to establish who these…people… are and what they want. I am sure we will be attaching a UN rep to your team eventually as well as other governments. For now you will be the highest ranking government official that the aliens can meet face to face.”
“Assuming they have faces,” John says easily. A nervous laugh ripples around the room and you are reassured that you have the right person for the job.
“Before you go,” you say, “brief the UN ambassador and any of the security counsel ambassadors that you can reach. Advise them that the US is going to go to Defcon Two. Advise that they do so as well but urge them, particularly the Russians and the Chinese NOT to respond militarily to any landing. No one of us should make this decision for the species alone or in haste. We are truly in this together as we have never been before in the history of the Earth.”
“Yes, sir,”
You look at the CICS. “In the meanwhile, General, you need to provide me with options for attacks with everything from Special Forces immediately in the area up to and through strategic nuclear weapons.”
The room is deadly quiet.
“The latter, ladies and gentleman, is classified ultimate secret. If word gets out of this room that we are planning for such an eventuality I will, as God is my witness, have the leaker arrested and punished to the ultimate extent. I am in deadly earnest about this. Deadly earnest. This is not politics as usual; this is not any other day.”
You turn next to the new director of FEMA and you hope to god he is the improvement that you thought he was when you appointed him. “Start making plans for an orderly voluntary evacuation of civilians from Charlotte. A lot will be fleeing anyway, let’s control it. We may need to change it to mandatory evacuation at any point. Be prepared. Encourage any company that can transfer their operations and data out of the Charlotte area to do so. Ditto for government operations.”
“Sir,” the national science advisor says hesitantly. “Everything you are doing is reasonable, but in a human context. We are in a non-human context. We don’t know what is reasonable. We don’t know what responses our moves will call from the aliens. ”
“I am aware of that,” you reply, with a touch of impatience. “What alternatives do you have for me in perspective? Who thinks about these issues?”
The Science Advisor looks a bit sheepish. “Sir Xeno-sociology is only a word. We could bring in some historians who have the perspective of vastly different cultures colliding. It’s happened before.”
You remember the books you’ve read about the Pacific war when Western cultures fought Eastern and the savagery normal to warfare became even deeper and more barbaric because of racial and sociological overtones. Kamikaze, suicide boats, children taught to run at soldiers with bamboo spears, an enemy that would not surrender. Other episodes of imperial age combat come to mind, Zulus Vs British, Everyone against the Chinese Boxers, Cortez again. Yes the historians may help, but no matter how different the culture it is human history.”
“There’s another group,” your press secretary continues, “science fiction writers.”
On any other day this could have gotten him laughed out of the room. Not today.
“Go on,” you say.
“Well Larry Niven wrote about a scenario like this in the book “Footfall.” In the book the president even assembled a team of SF writers for that reason. They’d made up alien cultures, thought about how they might work. What might trigger fight or flight for them?”
“Other names?” you prompt, nodding to the FBI director, who’d aid is furiously working a computer. You’re delighted that your press secretary is an SF fan
“CJ Cherryh,” The press secretary says. “She practically invented anthropological science fiction. Jerry Pournelle, Arthur C Clarke…. He rattles out more names unfamiliar to you.
“Get them,” you say to the FBI director. “They’ll probably be eager to help but get them regardless. Hire them, draft them, reactivate them, put them in black helicopters and threaten to drop them in the sea but get them all here as soon as possible.” The FBI aid departs at a fast jog.
You look at the Press Secretary. “I am going to be before the American people and the people of the world almost hourly for the next few days. People have to feel that the government is working and that the situation is under control.”
“Is it?” the Press Secretary asks.
“Hell, no,” you reply. “Wish we had given this one some thought before today.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What do we do with Flores Man first published in SFWA Bulletin 2005

The answer to the question, “Are we alone?” will be answered some time off in the distant future. But we already have an answer to, “Have we always been alone?” We haven’t. Cousins of man have shared the globe with us, Homo erectus and Homo neaderthalis.
An expedition, led by Peter Brown and Michael Moorwood of University of New England, Australia found a new answer to this question in an unlikely place, Liang Bua, which means "cool cave" in the local Manggarai language of Flores Island, Indonesia, in September 2003. We’ve had company more recently than we knew.
The evidence was the skeleton of a distant ancestor from a mere 18,000 years ago. She is called LB1. Her kind, now called Homo Floresiensis (also called Flores Man) seems to have lasted until just before our recorded history, dying out a mere 13,000 years ago. We may even have met on some unheralded day on the shores of Flores. If so no record remains save perhaps in the oral traditions of the Homo sapiens natives of Flores with their tales of a little people, the Ebu Gogo.
It is a new distinction for the island of Flores, its only prior claim to fame being that it was the furthest place from the island of Krakatoa, from which the dreadful volcanic explosion of 1883 could be heard.
The story of the discovery of this new branch of humanity led me to wonder what would have happened if we had found a small tribe of Homo floreseinsis alive on that island instead. What would it have meant to the world?
Consider some of the issues that this would raise. Imagine yourself as the leader of a National Geographic expedition that unexpectedly comes across a tribe of people in the jungle. Or are they people? They are about three feet tall, hairy and apish. Yet in the eyes that stare in wonderment across the clearing, you detect a spark of the divine. The being staring up at you is a toolmaker, not just a user like a chimpanzee. He’s armed with a smaller version of the same stone ax that Homo erectus carried during his 1.6 million-year run. He also carries a spear and there is fire in the rude campsite that you have stumbled into. You don’t know if he buries his dead, or uses abstract art to represent the universe, but you do know he has rudimentary language.
You know something else. You have rocked his universe. He was the biggest man of his tribe and you stand almost twice his height and three times his mass. He recognizes your machete as a tool between his ax and his spear, and boy would he like one. You are beginning to fear that he sees you as a god with a small g. Then you wonder if he already had gods with small g’s. Monotheism is surely beyond his small brain?
Maybe if you knew he and his small tribe were there, you’d have come up with some “Prime Directive” and prevented contact with Homo floresiensis to avoid contaminating his culture, too late now.
But would it have been any easier if we saw them and they did not see us? We would know that they were there, eking out a slim and perilous existence. Homo floresiensis is a hunter, but so are the Komodo dragons of their island and some of them die from predation. Others die from disease and malnutrition. Should we leave them to die, shredded by tooth and claw, or savaged by germs when we could save them? What if a typhoon or tsunami was heading for their island? Should we warn them, if we could even figure out how?
Imagine that the threat is even more directly our fault. Suppose their island was to be submerged due to global warming raising the sea level? Do we owe them relocation? Where and in whose custody?
What if their island lay between Indian and Indonesian territorial waters and one nation wanted to put a base there. Shouldn’t they be safe from our wars? Imagine if one side bribed Homo floreseinsis to serve as scouts and guards or even short order cooks?
If you decide that we do owe them something, medicine or food, you know that there will be opposing voices. That opposition will take many forms. Purists, who believe the Flores mans must remain untainted will denounce any aid as culturally insensitive. As they sit in their air-conditioned houses, watching the Discovery Channel, they demand you cease interfering in the natural order. They won’t face a Komodo dragon five times their size with a fire-hardened spear, but they want to watch someone else do so.
Others will ask from what source you derive the right to make any decision regarding Flores man? After all they are Indonesian citizens. Or, are they? Don’t you have to me a human before you can be a citizen? Homo floresiensis isn’t human. He doesn’t have the same chromosome or DNA as Homo sapiens and we can’t interbreed, that makes him another species.
If they are citizens, who claims them and their island? Do they have the right to self-government? We have not done so well with the primitives of our own species. Who will speak for these distant ancestors?
The United Nations steps in so we can begin the long argument about what is and is not a human. Time goes by and scientists observe Homo floreseinsis. He’s not doing well. The outside world is there and he knows it, but can neither understand nor cope with it.
Something happens that you have dreaded. A Homo floresiensis is killed. You want the killer arrested for murder.
“Murdering what?” the authorities ask. They are till scratching their heads about whom has jurisdiction over crimes on the island. Now you want to charge a drunken fisherman with murder? The fisherman says one of the Flores men tried to bite him, so he shot it thinking it was merely a rabid animal.
Then the fisherman adds another twist. He’s known about Homo floresiensis for the last twenty years. He thinks they make fine pets. They do great work in his garden. Oh yes, he owns a few, took them from the island decades ago. They can be trained quite well, he says, and are more useful then a dog. Incidentally they taste like chicken. His brother in law ate one once.
Cannibal, murderer, slaver, you demand justice be done.
But will it? Homo floresiensis can’t go to court. Neither can your German Shepherd, despite PETA's best efforts. The judge won’t recognize the Homo floresiensis sitting on the floor, shaking and defecating in terror and incomprehension, as a plaintiff. Homo floreseinsis can’t hire a lawyer, they don’t have money (an absolute necessity for any dealings with a lawyer) and they can’t sign pleadings. They are incompetent. A court would have to appoint guardians for them, but which court? Would they fall under the jurisdiction of the world court or the Indonesian ones?
Reporters want to interview a Homo floresiensis. Ecologists want to preserve them as they are. Mormons are vying with Jesuits and mullahs to save their souls. Do-gooders want to give them food, medicine and a vote in the UN.
As the expert on and discoverer of Homo floresiensis, you put the question to the assembled nations and the Security Counsel of the UN, “They are people and we must protect them.”
“From what?” you are asked.
“From being eaten, hunted, enslaved or infected,” you reply
“To what purpose?”
“What do you mean?” you ask.
“Protect them from contact with us and our culture and what will happen to them?”
Ah, there’s the rub. Nothing stops. You are on your way up or on your way down. Without your help and active protection, what is Homo floresiensis’ eventual fate? Death, of course. It’s amazing his small, inbred population has survived to this point. Some natural factor will destroy him. Storms, volcanoes, tsunamis or perhaps some germ will jump from birds to Homo floresiensis, as AIDS jumped from monkey to man. Finis.
Even if Homo floresiensis isn’t actively destroyed, what becomes of him? Here you come up against the single hardest cruelest fact. You like Flores man. He’s three feet tall with big eyes. He could put Elijah Woods out of the hobbit business. Despite his limitations, Flores man has lasted practically forever in the face of horrendous odds. But he has no potential. Behold Homo erectus, for over a million years, he was the apex of evolution on our planet and in large part so what? It was a million-year cycle. He began with a stone ax and grunts and ended with a stone ax and grunts. If the unexamined life isn’t worth living, how about a million years of unexamined lives?
Homo floresiensis, his diminutive offshoot, doesn’t have it in him either. Flores man will never speak to you. He doesn’t have the brain and he doesn’t have the voicebox for it. If the world were to last forever, he will never amount to more than he is now. No spaceshuttle, no probes to other worlds, no printing press and no computers, he’s at the end of the trail and that's ok with him because he lives there. We don’t. We are heading out into the universe and now we are saddled with a simpleminded cousin.
Do we create themeparks for him to live in? We’ll take out the dragons of course. We may have to put something in Homo floresiensis food to keep him from overbreeding. There’s also sterilization and abortion as options, of course.
By this point the UN has literally degenerated into a fistfight. Israel denounces involuntary human sterilization; they’ve been down that road before. The US feels conflicted about abortion. Conservative Muslim states denounce birth control and imperialism of the Flores man. They feel Homo floresiensis deserve to know Allah. The delegate from the Vatican wants to know if the Flores man is closer to the Garden of Eden then we are. Advocates for the retarded say that status as a human being cannot be made dependent on intelligence.
Screams and shouts and what do we do with Flores Man?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Free stuff of mine that you can download/podcast or view on line

Film and Audio



http://dunesteef.com/category/edward-mckeown/

Must Have Own Weapons by Edward McKeown


The story of this one originates with my favorite radio series, Car Talk on NPR with Tom and Ray Magliozzi. At the beginning of one show, Tom was reading from personal ads in the Boston paper and came up with this one. "Time-traveler seeks adventurous companion. Must have own weapons. I've done this before."


That expression kept running around in my head, must have own weapons. I thought what the heck, say I was asked to participate in an adventure and all I could use was stuff I had around the house. And ok, as a martial arts instructor and expert shot, my house might be just a tiny bit better equipped than the average for the sort of thing. I put together my time-traveler's kit of weapons and gear and then thought that it was kind of a shame that I wasn't off on some adventure. But being a writer gives you an option there. I came up with the story of a young man, just out of the military and a bad relationship and fed up with his crappy job, In short, in the emotional state to do something, particularly with the aid of cheap booze, completely wacky. So he answers the add and gets more than he ever expected.


It all goes to show that you just never know where the next bit of inspiration is coming from. Now I have to go, it's time to feed the velociraptor.

kind regards

Ed



At last,it's here. It's free and you can listen to it whereever you are. The Dunsteef players audio play of my story, "Open Twenty-Four Hours" Enjoy http://dunesteef.com/ Tars Bokara has the unenviable task of seeking out the unlikely location of the long-lost planet Earth. When he finds it, he discovers a thriving business covering the entire world, with employees eager to please. Want to take a guess what their hours are?




dunesteef.com
First contact between humans and a being from another planet happens in the New Mexico desert, near a nuclear testing range. The humans are a group of wide-eyed teenagers, and the otherworldly being calls itself Hotkas. Hotkas does not come in peace. This was great fun as the "Dunesteef players" perform my short story Final Exam think of Orson Wells terrifying the world! Well, maybe a little less scary





Film

Ed had sold his first screenplay! A health film disguised as an SF thriller "Last Clean Chance" http://mecklenburg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=5


Story Line: The Mecklenburg County Health Department's most recent hit production is an 8 minute science fantasy thriller entitled "Last Clean Chance". Set in a bio-research lab, the movie stars two sisters who have lost their parents in a tragic accident. One of the sisters has been secretly working on a biological weapon based upon a mystery animal flu virus. A doomsday scenario is set in motion when the virus is leaked into the lab space occupied by Dr. Joanie Schell. Lisa, her younger sister and an intern at the lab, is called upon to save her sister and the planet by getting herself into the restricted area without setting off an irradiation protocol that will kill everything except the virus . Along the way, Lisa must wash the bio-weapon off her hands by using proper hand washing techniques. Tailored for young viewers, the movie teaches a valuable skill and reminds us of the number one way to prevent the spread of disease. Written by Ed McKeown and Gary Black, Directed by Frank McGough, and featuring Joe Travis as Director of Photography, the movie was shot in high definition (HDV), a first for the Department.



Editorial Work

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Failure to Communicate” by Ed McKeown

“What is it?” Over-General Ulat demanded, in tones of nitrogen with an overlay of imperious oxygen. “You’re ruining my contemplation of our glorious victory. ”  He angled a stalked eye at the glowing remains of the humans’ small advance base on the horizon.  The strange creatures with their superior technology had fallen to a surprise assault.
The Chief Scientist bowed and scraped as well as his circular form allowed, emitting a lesser degree of nitrogen with the appropriate helium of humility.  Yet there was a clear overlay of argon, indicating emotional distress of the highest order.
“Speak,” the general relented, with a sigh of hydrogen.
“It was all a mistake,” the scientist wailed in argon.  A tentacle whiplashed toward the glowing ruins. “The entire war is a mistake!”
“What are you talking about?”
“We just succeeded in decoding their written language,” the scientist exhaled, argon heavy about him. “Humans have a different method of communication.  I know it sounds crazy, but they use modulated sound waves, sent through the atmosphere.”
“Impossible,” the general scoffed, but with an isocyanate of doubt.
“They have specially developed organs on the sides of their heads that pick up vibrations in the air,” the scientist insisted. “Vibrations that we sense only through conduction, they pick up from the air itself.  They do not communicate as we do.”
“But I was there,” the general declared in oxygen.  “I experienced their leader’s vile slander of our hive-mother. Are you saying it was –”
“An incidental byproduct of the human’s digestive system, not unusual, especially in the older males of their species,” the scientist replied.
“No,” the general insisted. “The torrent of abuse and invective that he heaped on her sacred name was so foul, so intricate, so obscene, it could only be the product of –”
“The bean paste and crackers we served them at the reception,” the scientist vented in despair. “We have begun a war with a nuclear-armed, star-faring species based on a failure to communicate. We are doomed.”
           The general fainted, deflating from every orifice.


“Words of the Sword Saint” by Edward McKeown Musings on Miayamto Musashi and the Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho)

“Words of the Sword Saint” by Edward McKeown

Musings on Miayamto Musashi and the Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho)





A long time ago in a land far, far away, there lived a very strange and dangerous man.  He is known to as Miyamoto Musashi also called the Kinsei or “Sword Saint” though a better translation might be Master of the Way of the Sword as his use of the weapon was hardly saintly in the Western Tradition.  To those in the West he is hardly known outside of Japanophiles and martial artists.  The most common image arises from a series of movies usually referred to as the samurai trilogy which show the growth of Musashi from a common ruffian to the “beau ideal” of the samurai warrior.

He lived and fought from 1584 to 1645 in the Edo period in feudal Japan.  Having accomplished much on the field of battle, he retired to a cave in Reigando to there ponder the meaning of his violent existence.  Among his final acts was to gift us with the Book of Five Rings or (Go Rin No Sho.)  This book is now know mostly in martial arts circles but became popular during the business craze of the 1990s when movies like Red Sun Rising gave us dire warnings about how the Japanese were going to wipe up the economic floor with us.  We searched through the writings of their scholars as earlier generations had looked into China to come up with Sun Tzu and his "Art of War."  We later learned that Japans success was a mixture of a totally rebuilt industrial base (the originally one having been fire-bombed out of existence) an educated and cohesive populace and tremendous financial leverage that blew up leaving them with a moribund banking system and “lost decades.”

The question is, does the Book of Five Rings have meaning in our modern world, in the martial arts as we practice them and even in life more generally? 

It’s important in reading the Rings to understand what Musashi has to say to our modern world and what he does not.  As such it’s useful to remember the context and perspective of his writing of this short and comparatively crude and repetitive series of ramblings.

Musashi was a brutal warrior in a brutal time and place.  Note that I say warrior, not a soldier.  Soldier is an occupation/job, usually not a lifelong one; warrior is a way of life.  Musashi was a warrior, while he studied other skills, including calligraphy, metal-working and painting, even in these he saw the Way of the Sword and studied them to know the Way of the Sword better.  First and foremost, Musashi was man-killer.  He looked for opportunities to kill other warriors in the same way a carpenter looks for chances to build a table and for the same reason, it’s what he does and all that he does.  His skill improves only with application and training only takes one so far.

Musashi killed to kill.  It was an end in itself.  He didn’t kill just to protect others or because his opponents were evil and he was not.  It was simply an application of his skill and did not need a moral context.  He was not a wandering knight writing wrongs.  He was a guy looking to fight.  In that respect the movies and books of Musashi usually romanticize this warrior and his way of life.  Truth was that he lived by the sword and expected to die by the sword.

To Musashi there was only winning and dying, anything that won a fight was good.  Anything that did not contribute to winning a fight was useless.  The concept of a “fair fight” was unknown to him.  Musashi sometimes fought other opponents with wooden swords.  He did not do this, as a Westerner might assume, to make the fight, “fair” or give the other guy a chance to kill him.  He did it to see if he could kill his opponent armed only with a wooden sword.  It was a test of his skill and an effort to gain greater skill.  Magnanimity and chivalry did not enter into it and he would have thought those concepts stupid.

Musashi mercilessly killed his opponents, unless it was in a situation where he was in a “friendly duel” really more of a teaching exhibition.  Even there, had he killed a student or other fighter, he would have shown no regret, nor been chastised or imprisoned.  That would just be bad luck during warrior training.  

How much of this can we apply to the modern Dojo of soccer moms, office workers and children?  What can we risk in a world of American lawyers and lawsuits?  

Musashi was in the business; to the extent he trained people, of turning out killers.  He lived a life, often devoid of physical comfort or compassion.  He never married, nor had children, though he adopted one.  The adoptive son, vassal to the Himeji lived only four years after that act, committing seppuku because of the death of his own lord. 

Musashi disdained comfort and wealth, spending his last few years living in a cave, contemplating the universe.  One can be tempted to dismiss him as a psychopathic serial-killer.  But that is too simple an analysis.  He literally lived by the sword in a world that provided him few options.  Clearly while neither a giant in strength or size- he was naturally gifted with hand/eye coordination and likely was one of those individual for whom physical fear was not a big factor.  He lived in a world without antibiotics, where any penetrating wound was likely fatal, fighting with weapons that would shear off an arm or a leg, in armies or individual fights where quarter would neither be asked nor given.

In this world without mercy he expected to die by the sword at any time and a central tenet of his warrior ethos is that you must be prepared to die, in an instant.  Death will arrive unexpectedly.  You must have already chosen and resigned yourself to face death beforehand so your spirit is settled when the moment comes, or you will be weak and flinch; seeking to live, which is not the way of the warrior.  Death and defeat are the same thing.  When Musashi says, “Aim at death” he does not mean embrace it casually, or try and get yourself killed, he means to expect that this will be the outcome of your profession, discount it.  This advice is less esoteric then it seems.  By not flinching, or seeking to live, you increase your odds of surviving by daunting your opponent.  If his spirit is not settled, seeing yours as resolute will cause him to flinch, to use improper technique and to thus lose.

In short the one who embraces death is less likely to actually die in the fight.  Hard to believe perhaps but this is in essence the distilled wisdom of a professional fighting man.  He knew of what he spoke.  Sometimes his advice seemed basic or even trite.  “To cut and slash are two different things. Cutting, whatever form of cutting it is, is decisive, with a resolute spirit. Slashing is nothing more than touching the enemy. Even if you slash strongly, and even if the enemy dies instantly, it is slashing. When you cut, your spirit is resolved. You must appreciate this.  If you first slash the enemy's hands or legs, you must then cut strongly. Slashing is in spirit the same as touching. When you realize this, they become indistinguishable. Learn this well.”

At first glance does it seem like great wisdom?  Yet this is life and death, the most basic and primal of struggles.  Lose this struggle and what else matters.  It was through such mastery that Musashi lived to 61 years of age undefeated in single combat.

This is true on the macro scale as well.  The victorious army, the resolute winner usually suffers far less casualties than the defeated.  When Alexander the Great defeated his enemies it was in the rout that followed the battle where the true casualties were incurred.  With discipline broken and men not supporting each other, Alexander’s disciplined legions harvested their enemies like wheat.  It would have been the same in 1615 the defeat of the Toytomi Hideyori’s Army of the West from which Musashi was lucky to escape.

We are not dwellers in the same world.  Few of us will ever actually fight, almost none of us will fight to seriously injure or kill, but rather even if we are attacked, we will seek to ward off.  But there is wisdom from the old boy.  Much of what he painfully learned in how to master himself and others can be applied to business, daily life and the martial arts.

Know a something about a great deal of different things.  You never know what scrap of information will help you succeed and survive.  Be as good a parent as you are a fighter.  Devote yourself to other pursuits with the same fervor you apply to martial arts, whether it is writing, biking, dancing etc. 

Do nothing that is useless.  I suspect he would regard TV, video games and other passive entertainment as useless.  How many of us see a little boy boasting about how many video dragons he slew, when he can neither do a push up or a shoulder roll?

Musashi would urge drill, drill and more drill followed by some drill.   Your 50th kick should be as good as your first.  The only way to learn to punch is to punch, a lot.   Martial art is not in the head.  It is in the well-conditioned body with its trained reflex reactions

Don’t do calisthenics or warm up.  Do drill or forms slowly until warm, then speed up to fighting levels.  No one ever won a fight with a jumping jack.  Don’t run to get into shape for martial arts.  Do the martial arts.  The art is all.  It contains warm-ups and cooldowns in the tempo.  Much time is used up in a modern dojo on things that are not fighting.  It doesn’t mean it must all be grim and cheerless. When your students are throwing the red squares at each other and giggling like mad, they are none the less learning the basic principles of throwing a weapon and dodging a thrown weapon.  They just don’t realize they are working.

Musashi advocated having a very varied inventory of fighting techniques and never using the same ones.  Be unpredictable, be unorthodox, and be decisive.  Attack first, while others dither, or do not attack at all, but be the one controlling the pace of the fight.  Always have the initiative.

To sum up his philosophy, “Train as you fight and fight as you train.”  Musashi would not understand a great deal of what we do in a modern martial art school.  Protective equipment would have been ridiculous to him.  If you would expect to fight in armor, you would train in armor.  The modern person will be attacked in street clothes and wearing shoes.  Why are you training with equipment you won’t use?

He would note that equipment, gloves, cups and other padding, changes the way you fight, particularly as to grabs and any other type of strike other than a backfist or punch and therefore the equipment is harmful to training. 

Musashi would despise point-sparring as it generates bad technique, essentially a martial arts game of tag.  The only blows worth delivering are those that will injure or destroy opponents.  Anything else is a waste of energy and you might as well kiss them.  We often say, don’t kick above the waist in a real fight, Musashi would say, “Then why are practicing high kicks at all?”  However he would also disagree with the principal, “Never kick above the waist in a real fight.”  Kick above the waist if you are sure you will connect.  

Musashi would tell a student not to have a preferred weapon (whether that is a club, knife or foot) but to attack well with whatever is available.  For example if you are great longswordsman or high-kicker, what good does that do you fighting in a narrow alley or small room? If you can just box, what will you do when the opponent is kicking for your knees and sweeping you?    

A central principal that we can learn from Musashi is that effective fighting trumps tradition and form.  In this respect he is like Bruce Lee.  A good technique is simple and effective and can be applied without thought.  He felt that there were only five ways to strike with a sword. All others were ineffective and you could use an infinite variety by combining the five differently.

Musashi was a strange man who lived a hard life.  But he was victorious in the field as an army leader and in over sixty individual combats.  He knew what he knew down to his bones.  We can apply some of his lessons to the world we live in and always need to bear in mind that the hard cold merciless world that he lived in can spring to life around is in riot, terrorism, crime or war.  Br prepared.

As he put it; “This is the Way for men who want to learn my strategy:

  • Do not think dishonestly.
  • The Way is in training.
  • Become acquainted with every art.
  • Know the Ways of all professions.
  • Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
  • Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
  • Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
  • Pay attention even to trifles.
  • Do nothing which is of no use.





Like Snake Plisskin, Ed McKeown escaped from NY, but his old hometown supplies much of the background to his humorous “Lair of the Lesbian Love Goddess” shorts, as his new hometown in Charlotte, North Carolina does for his “Templar” series.  Ed has enjoyed a life-long love affair with science fiction and fantasy as well as a wide variety of interests from ballroom dance to the martial arts and he’s married to the talented artist, Schelly Keefer. 

Ed is offering a series of books for publication: the Robert Fenaday Trilogy the saga of one man’s search for his wife’s lost starship and his affair with the genetically enhanced assassin, Shasti Rainhell; Shasti Rainhell’s own adventures in “Hidden Stars” and the Maauro series: the tale of Wrik Trigardt, pilot, and Maauro a 50,000 year old alien combat android.  He’s edited the Sha’Daa’ anthologies “Tales of the Apocalypse” and “Last Call.”   Presently he’s busily writing for Janet Morris in the upcoming anthologies “Lawyers in Hell” and “Adventurers in Hell” and will probably spend more time in Hell thereafter.  In the nonfiction world he had written extensively on the visual arts. For more, visit Ed's home page. http://www.sfreader.com/authors/edward-mckeown  or find him on Facebook.